Location: Gnawbone, Indiana
Time of Year: May
Distance options: 100k-5 person relay, 50k, 50 mile
Year(s) completed: 2008, 2013 (Relay)
Dances With Dirt Gnawbone is basically the same set up as previously-reviewed DWD Hell relay race, but this one takes place throughout Brown County State Park just outside of Gnawbone, Indiana (just outside larger city Columbus, Indiana, about an hour south of Indianapolis).
Brown County State Park is just beautiful and has a giant trail system and large area otherwise to utilize for this race.
The relay race is similar to DWD Hell in that it’s a 5-person, 15-leg, 100k trail and off-trail relay race. Legs are marked with different colored ribbons that mark the way with some signage along the way. Teams slap hands at 14 different exchange zones throughout the park, sometimes driving to different locations to meet up with runners (one comes in, one takes off, and you travel with your team to the next exchange zone).
Although all DWD races (they also no occur in Florida and Wisconsin at different times of the year) contain hills, mud, and water crossings, Gnawbone is more hilly (almost mountainous, even) and rocky trail running compared to Hell, which has much more mucky mud and off-trail crashing. Each race has its own character. All in all the Gnawbone course has a great mix of terrain, elevation, views, and every leg has its own “fun”.
While this race was less organized the first time I did it, it was much more so this last time, and only minorly chaotic navigating in between a couple exchange zones.
Coupled with individual ultramarathon trail races also, the atmosphere is great. The Running Fit staff who put it on are always highly into it, as well as the teams, who often dress up and participate in themed costumes and/or decorated team vehicles.
I have only done the relay and that’s where it’s at. It’s great to do as a team, share “battle stories” with each other in between legs, and every event results in an epic day.
In-Race support relay-wise is pretty much all teams for themselves (individual ultra runners have aid stations for refueling) which is fair because you have your vehicle with you the whole time for anything you need. Post-race festivities generally include some sort of small buffet (limited/lack vegetarian options, however), live music, and beer garden.
All in all this is a great running event, and although there are definitely plenty of natural “obstacles”, this is just a beautiful, fun running event, and not an obstacle race. It’s definitely more about the camaraderie and great running, despite the mud factor.
Those that have experienced DWD Hell–DWD Gnawbone is just a wonderful, or better, experience and doesn’t yet have the chaos of early sellouts and competitive entry, has a new and refreshing course, and really isn’t that bad a drive from mid-Michigan/DWD Hell area. A 5-hour drive is pretty long, but easily doable with other people, and WELL worth it.